plonkee money an english-er's thoughts on personal finance

December 11, 2008

the 11th day of Christmas: 11 ways to decorate more frugally

Filed under: Uncategorized — plonkee @ 12:00 pm

Yay, it’s nearly Christmas. Which means it’s time for the 2nd annual m-network 12 days of Christmas thingummyjig. And I foolishly volunteered for day 11 – apparently when we planned this I said I wanted a challenge.

Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful

William Morris

So, I’m currently supposed to be decorating my house. I’m about 80% complete on four rooms, and 0% complete on the other two. Sadly, the other two are the kitchen and bathroom, relatively expensive rooms especially as there’s no way around replacing my bathroom suite – not only is it ugly it’s also cracked.

1. look before you leap

Do research before you start. Check out websites like apartment therapy, pick up a couple of magazines, browse interior decoration books, window shop extensively. Formulating your own taste, and knowing where to look for bargains are the key to good frugal interior decorating. Collect cuttings and samples together so that you can see what looks good before you spend money on stuff. This means that you can change your mind if what you originally wanted doesn’t fit your budget.

2. pick a style and stick to it

This is really about making your place look good. If you pick a style and stick to it, everything will go together so it will look good. You’ve got a framework to bargain hunt against and since it will look good you can spend less knowing for greater effect.

3. less is more

Taking your own tastes into account, pick a style that is not reliant on lots and lots of decorative frills to work. Minimalism might not be for you, but if you like a country cottage look, err on the side of plain or shaker styles for example.

4. be flexible on exact colours

You can pick up end of line tins of paint quite often at your local big box DIY store. If you’ve only got a small area to paint, and you’re fairly flexible as to the exact colour that you want, this is a great way to save on supplies. Similarly for wallpaper, fabric, curtains etc – remnants are cheaper. Alternatively, stick to colours that are reasonably popular and you can pick up cheap paint and things in all sorts of surprising places.

5. DIY

It goes without saying that if you have the skills to do it, doing it yourself will probably save money. This doesn’t just include handyman skills, but things like making your own curtains and cushions, prettifying boxes, and creating artwork.

6. measure twice, cut once

Measure your room carefully (at least twice) so you know what will fit. I have known people to get this wrong, funny? yes, but kind of an expensive mistake.

7. invest in good finishing

Expensive tiling looks cheap if it’s installed badly. Similarly, almost anything that’s installed well will look good – which is the goal at the end of the day. And investing in this case doesn’t have to mean money. Take your time and get things right.

8. get used stuff

Gumtree, craigslist, and freecycle are your friends. You can pick up all sorts of bargains, although you should always be mindful of fire hazards in old upholstered things, and lead paint (etc) in items for babies rooms. Bargains may also be found on ebay, in car boot or yard sales, or your local charity shop. Keep your eyes peeled.

9. go to Ikea

Last time I went I picked up a few tea light holders that were 9p (like $0.05) each. Which is almost nothing. Ikea has bargains on a whole variety of small stuff like candles, towels, lamps, clocks, picture frames, crockery and cutlery, fleece blankets and wooden coat hangers (just mentioning a few of my own purchases at random). Unlike other cheap shops most of these things are in the fairly plain category – whilst not exactly exciting it also means that they aren’t hideous.

Other good bargain stores in the UK are TK Maxx, Argos, Matalan and Dunelm Mills. I only know of TJ Maxx elsewhere – add your suggestions in the comments.

10. accents are the place for nice things

Just the other day, I saw a beautiful purple velvet sofa in a magazine, it’s not remotely a bargain, but a touch of luxurious velvet would be lovely in my house. Make the small things the place where you (relavitively speaking) indulge in the finer things. Plain curtains with silk ribbon tiebacks, a small alcove papered in designer wallpaper, velvet cushions on a cloth sofa are all good in living and bedrooms. In bathrooms and kitchens get nice handles, and hardware.

11. if you don’t like it, cover it up

I can’t be the only person in the world that’s had to live with ugly furniture, flooring, or other hideous monstrosity. At the moment, I’ve got two fugly gas fires downstairs that I don’t use. In an ideal world I’d get rid of them, install new fires (one period Art Nouveau, one ultra modern) and replaster the chimney breats. Sadly, I’m not yet living in an idea world.

The short to medium term solution is to cover it up. If your carpet is a hideous pattern, get a cheap plain rug for the floor. If your sofa is ugly, get a neutral throw to go over it. I’m going to be getting some firescreens to go in front of my eyesores. I think the key to this is covering as much as possible of the monstrosity with something very plain and neutral.

There you go, the 11th day of Christmas.

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